Your new feline friend is home, but what should you do on the first night with your adopted cat? Discover how to help your new cat adjust and where they should sleep
Congratulations! You’re welcoming a new feline friend into your life and will soon be enjoying all the purrs, head-butts and lap snuggles that cat companionship brings.
First though, before you start thinking up all the weird and wonderful nicknames you’ll call them, you need to prepare for your new cat’s arrival and their first day and night in their new home.
Cats don’t usually like change, so going to a new home can be very stressful for them. Giving them a calm and organised introduction to their new surroundings will help them to settle in quicker and start your relationship off on the right paw.
What should I do on the first day of owning a cat?
Before you go and collect your new feline friend, set them up with their own ‘sanctuary room’ in the house. Ideally this will be a quiet room you can easily close off, such as a spare bedroom or office. Remove any potential hazards from the room and then set it up with all the things your cat will need. Find out how to set up your cat’s new space.
When you bring your cat home, place their cat carrier in this sanctuary room and let them come out of the carrier in their own time – don’t take them out yourself. They may come out right away, or they may need a bit of time to pluck up the courage. Leave them alone in the room and close the door, so they can explore by themselves. Try to keep quiet around the house while you get on with your day, and even though you’ll be desperate to show your adorable new friend off, avoid having visitors over to meet them until they’ve properly settled in.
After they’ve been alone for an hour or so, you can then pop into the room every so often to check on them, but do so calmly and quietly, and try to get down on their level so you don’t look so big and scary! While it’s tempting to approach them for a stroke or pick them up for a cuddle, this could spook them, so wait until they approach you and then hold out your hand so they can give you a sniff and get used to your scent.
Where should my adopted cat sleep on the first night?
On the first night in their new home, leave your cat alone in their room where they have access to everything they need. Provide them with somewhere to sleep, such as a cat bed, or a carboard box lined with a jumper or blanket, but don’t be offended if they choose their own completely different sleeping spot! They’ll sleep wherever they feel most comfortable. Find out more about cats and sleep.
What should I do if my cat is crying/meowing on the first night in their new home?
If you can hear your new cat crying or meowing in their room, try to work out why they’re being vocal.
Firstly, make sure they have access to all the resources they need (eg food, water, litter tray) as they may be trying to tell you they can’t get to something they want.
If that’s not the problem, next see if they approach you for a fuss – it might be that they want some company. If giving them some attention seems to settle them, but they start meowing again when you leave the room, you could see if they want to follow you into your own bedroom and sleep in there with you. Be warned though, it’s rarely ‘just for tonight’! If you don’t want to regularly have a cat draped across you while you try to sleep, then set them up with their own bed elsewhere and keep your bedroom door closed.
If neither of these appear to be the cause of the meowing, it could be that your cat is just letting you know they feel unsettled, which is completely natural. Hopefully the meowing will stop once they feel more comfortable in their new home, but if you’re worried you can always speak to your vet for some tailored advice. Find out why cats meow and how to speak cat.
How do you soothe a newly adopted cat?
- Make sure they have access to everything they need. Download our cat essentials checklist
- Give them somewhere to hide (such as a cardboard box, or under a bed) – hiding helps cats feel safe. Find out more about why cats hide
- Plug in a pheromone diffuser, such as Feliway®, to help create a calming environment
- Give them something that smells familiar to them, such as a blanket they had in their previous home or rescue centre
- If you know the routine they had in their previous home, try to stick to that. Alternatively, create a new, predictable routine so your cat knows what to expect at all times
- Keep all of your interactions with them consistent, predictable and on their own terms. Perhaps use a cue word (such as their name) before you approach them, so they’re prepared for any interactions in future
- Keep quiet and move slowly around them, and try to get down to their level so you’re not leaning over them
- Try talking to them quietly and calmly – you could even read to them or play some calming music on a low volume
- Try getting their attention with some cat toys. Slowly drag a fishing rod toy across the floor or gently bat a ping-pong ball across the room and see if they’re interested in chasing it – play is a great way to bond with your cat. Learn how to play with your cat
How long should a newly adopted cat stay in one room?
How long you keep your cat in one room will depend entirely on the cat. Once they’ve fully explored the room and they seem to be comfortable in it, that’s when you can open the door and let them explore the rest of the house.
For particularly confident cats, this could be within a few hours of them being home, but for others it could take several days or perhaps a couple of weeks.
Once you do open the door, let them venture out in their own time. If they still seem a little nervous, it might be best to introduce them to the rest of the house one room at a time, keeping the next room closed off until they’ve got used to the previous one.
Always make sure they can get back to their ‘sanctuary room’ when they want to, keeping it set up with everything they need.
Once they are comfortable exploring the whole house, you can then start moving their resources to more convenient locations if you want to (but remember to still keep the food bowl, water bowl and litter tray separate!). Avoid suddenly moving everything all at once, instead do it one at a time to help your cat adjust.
How long does it take for an adopted cat to adjust?
All cats are different, so there’s no definitive answer to how long it will take your new cat to settle in. Some cats might feel at home within just a few hours, but more nervous or shy cats might need several weeks or months to feel truly comfortable in their new surroundings.
It’s important to take things at their own pace and not rush them into exploring the whole house; having strokes and cuddles; or meeting friends and family. Moving too quickly may cause them more stress and give them reason not to trust you, slowing the whole process down and negatively effecting your bond.
Even if they appear confident at first, handling them a lot or introducing them to lots of people straight away can still be overwhelming for them and set their progress back. If you take things slowly your patience will hopefully be rewarded with a loveable, happy cat who will be your best friend for years to come.